Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Life Lessons from a Two-Week-Old

My wife and I had our second child very close to exactly fifteen years after our first. The timing and other coincidences mean that we have already begun the inevitable process of making comparisons. There are a variety of statistics that highlight the parallels, but one is that Catherine was born seven minutes short of Morgan's original due date. Also, Morgan was two weeks early, six pounds even, and 18 1/2". Catherine was two weeks and two days early, two ounces short of six pounds, and 18". I don't know if any of these statistics are actually interesting or not, as I'm suffering from moderate sleep-deprivation, but I figured I should take a moment to catalog these and other observations before they escape me entirely.

In no particular order, here are some things that I've learned or re-learned already in the weeks since Catherine's birth day:
  • Decision-making is exhausting - Baby care is exhausting too, but we're taught to expect that. In fact, they have little baby simulators (see also: here) that can prepare you for the relentless rhythm of food, clothing, vapors, sanitation, sleep, repeat. What they don't prepare you for is the agonizing doubt that accompanies every decision sparked by dealing with those things. So much of it is loaded with societal pressures, lobbies, and friends' and families' beliefs (even when they're silent, their silence is felt). At some point you're standing in the the baby section of the WalMart at midnight trying to select diapers, and suddenly everyone involved is consumed by tears of frustration.
  • Procrastination is not decision making - It's probably obvious from the age gap of our children that we didn't immediately get back to procreation after the first one. Without burdening you with the details of our marital negotiations, the discussion came down to my wife saying "maybe now?" and me saying "not now," which she took to mean "not yet." The fact that we didn't take any decisive action on this for years meant that we just let the decision hang there to be dealt with in the future. The funny thing about fertility is that deciding to wait is increasingly deciding you're done, so I was winning the argument as a simple matter of biology. For more on procrastination, see also: here.
  • Babies are easy, as long as you don't try to do anything else - Including the teenager, there are three able-bodied, adult-sized people in this house, and we're barely able to get the dishes done. Luckily, there is a fairly constant stream of people coming through here to see the baby. The deal is, we clean like crazy for the daily visitors, and guests assume we weren't able to clean at all, but  choose not to report us to Children and Youth just yet. Plus, they usually bring us food, which is going to make it a little tough for me to drop my pregnancy weight.
  • Pregnancy is a cruel joke - My family and I get our hackles up every year at the Lessons and Carols service when Genesis, Chapter 3 is read. This has been made worse by the fact that my daughter, by some cruel game of Lectionary roulette, has ended up reading this little chestnut for like three years in a row. That said, it's not difficult guess how the process of pregnancy, delivery, and breast feeding came to to be seen as a curse from God. We knew from the first time and lots of reading since (see also: here, and here) that it was no cakewalk, and we knew about all of the icky symptoms that my wife mostly escaped. Then, one day, we find out about hives that you get just for having been pregnant and/or nursing. Come on, God, really?
  • This is easier when you're older - Yeah, the kid gets up at 4:00 AM, and again at 6:30 AM--truth is, so do I. When I was a teenager, or even a twenty-something, I was able to sleep until 10:00 or later if given the chance. We don't know when our elder daughter would get up without outside influence, because we've never had the self-discipline to let her go later than noon. Most of our friends still have their kids, which means that they're no more equipped for late-night partying than we are, and they've been very generous with hand-me-down equipment. Little baby carriers and such that we haven't been given, we can afford just go out an buy, like this. There's a very good reason that teenagers aren't expected to try to do this. It's unfortunate that the peak of biological readiness and societal readiness are becoming increasingly far apart, but forty-something has turned out to be not so bad.
  • It's worth it - My wife is right a vast percentage of the time, and she was right on this one. If I had been less stubborn, we wouldn't be looking forward to college graduation and Kindergarten graduation in the same year, or Catherine's high school graduation synchronized with my eligibility for retirement. We saw an AARP Magazine in the waiting room at the pediatrician, and realized that before too long it will have been put there for us. Still, it's worth it, and I'm able to say this with a house and farm about to fall down around us and not nearly enough time to attend to any of it.
There's more, and I'll be sure to let you know when it comes to me. Until then, enjoy the picture, which I swear is the actual child, and not some stock Anne Geddes pic.